Tag Archives: undraped model

The Nude in Art


A 10-minute line drawing from a few weeks ago

I went back to school at 27, starting in photography and soon finding my place further down the hall, where the art of painting was happening.

It became clear early on — and without much thought by me — that when you study art, you have to learn to draw the undraped body. So I signed up and pretty quickly understood every challenge an artist faces is dealt with in life drawing, also called drawing the undraped model.


A copy of a Rembrandt I did in college

The “undraped” part is important because cloth allows you to lie, to not paint an area you are struggling with. With no draping, you cannot lie. If your measurements are off, perspective is skewed;  if the light’s not right, it’s all very obvious, and this forces you to be better. So I never gave another thought to it. This is what artists do, and it’s helpful. Wow, is it ever helpful.


Another college throwback: this one, a copy of a Michelangelo

As a student of history, the nude in art has always been present, but in studying art history, you quickly learn each time period had its own feelings and unspoken rules about how exactly this subject should be handled. For example, it has almost always been that your model could not be looking directly at you — that’s too forward, the eyes must be averted. What?

Since my education as an artist started, conversations around the nude in art have been uncomfortable for me. I want the conversation to go away because it’s a genre that is critical to the education of a artist. But it doesn’t go away. And so I will continue to talk about it.


A study done last summer

Soon, I will be going back to Italy to study, primarily to paint and draw the undraped model. Why? Because every time I do it, I am reminded how it makes me a better artist. And as an artist, I hope never to arrive, but to always be in a state of learning and growing, to be better than I was the week before. And so, I continue my commitment to working from models, undraped. I hope you will come along with me for this learning experience. As I learn, I teach, and I hope you’ll join me on this adventure starting April 15.

For me, this subject of the nude in art is not about arguing the point; it’s about the experience of learning art. It’s just very matter of fact. Of course, it can be argued that you can learn art without this genre, and that is true, but if you’ve studied from life, you probably won’t find yourself arguing against the practice. You will most likely “get it” (though there are exception to every rule).

So what about you? What are your thoughts and feelings about the nude in art? As always, I love your thoughts and feedback. The best conversations can be found on Facebook and Instagram where you I can be found most everyday.

A Time-Honored Tradition



The words of my mentor, teacher and friend Bob Burridge continued to resonate in my mind long after they were spoken in my figurative art course today.

“What a luxury you have today, painting from a live model,” he told the class. “This is a time-honored tradition; it goes back to cave paintings.”

ImageHis description got me thinking about what a time-honored tradition it is indeed. Some people collect coins or baseball cards; I collect art books, poring over the works and stories of those who went before me who shared my passion for making art.

Think of your own favorite artists from the past …now Google them. They all work from live models at some point, both drawings and paintings — further proof of the undraped model’s relevance in art’s foundations and evolution.

ImageThis art history buff gets giddy just thinking about visiting the paths of my art heroes. Rembrandt, Picasso, Goya — they are all masters of the figure in art. So today, pondering Bob’s words, I felt a kinship with my teachers from the past and yet an owning of my own tradition, a journey that takes me deeper into my own artistic voice while nodding to the greats of art history.

Here’s the thing about life drawing or painting: It teaches you to see. The human figure is not easy to re-create; you really have to look, find proportions, study the shapes and spaces around the figure or negative shape. It’s a challenge that stretches you as an artist, makes you better by forcing you to look, and then demands that you have seen with each mark you make.

ImageThe figure, a human element in art, is not just exciting to me because of the nod to the past and the exceptional way it teaches you to master your skills. It’s about humanity. Mastering the figure is a way to enter a painting from your own point of view. By this, I mean: We are all human, so it puts the “us” factor in the art. As I continue my week of study, this will be my goal, to honor the life in all of us, the connectedness we have as humans. Here’s to being alive!